Stop blam­ing women for men’s vi­o­lence against them

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

It is in­fu­ri­at­ing to write what feels like the same piece. Mul­ti­ple times, in way too rapid suc­ces­sion. But here we go again – a shoot­ing, a white male per­pe­tra­tor, a re­jec­tion and vic­tim-blam­ing.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis shot and killed 10 peo­ple and wounded more than a dozen at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas on May 18. Al­though there were, ac­cord­ing to school of­fi­cials, no “red flags,” there ac­tu­ally were, to the knowl­edge­able eye. I do not mean that to throw any­one un­der the bus but rather to il­lus­trate that we have far to go be­fore, as a so­ci­ety, we ac­tu­ally ad­dress what is known about school shoot­ers and cre­ate ap­pro­pri­ate pre­ven­tion pro­grams. Al­most al­ways, the shoot­ers are white males who have is­sues with fe­males, be it re­jec­tions or overtly abu­sive re­la­tion­ships. The red flag, then, was his per­sis­tent and in­creas­ingly an­gry pur­suit of a young lady de­spite her lack of in­ter­est.

One of Pagourtzis’s tar­gets was Shana Fisher, who, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, over four months re­peat­edly re­jected his ad­vances. Al­legedly, she fi­nally stood up to him in class, which was an em­bar­rass­ment, sup­pos­edly, and some re­ports say, the fi­nal straw. That he tar­geted a girl who he was in­ter­ested in is, sadly and hor­rif­i­cally, nor­mal in the U.S.

Vir­tu­ally all of the school shoot­ers in mod­ern times have tar­geted a dat­ing part­ner or some­one who spurned their ad­vances. Nick­o­las Kruz, the Park­land, Florida school shooter, had abused both his mother and his for­mer girl­friend. In March, Austin Wyatt Rollins shot a girl he had dated and an­other boy in a Bal­ti­more school. In April, Alek Mi­nas­sian drove a van into a crowd, mur­der­ing 10 peo­ple in Toronto. Mi­nas­sian claims to be part of the “in­cel,” or in­vol­un­tar­ily celi­bate, cul­ture, which aims to pun­ish women for deny­ing men like him sex, and was in­spired by El­liot Rodgers’ May 2014 at­tack that killed six and wounded 14. Rodgers had recorded a video on YouTube in which he ex­plained that he in­tended to pun­ish women for re­ject­ing him. These men imag­ine them­selves to be the vic­tims, and the me­dia plays along.

As is typ­i­cal, main­stream me­dia, when it cov­ers this part of this part of the story at all, has re­in­forced the no­tion that some­how it was her fault for re­ject­ing him. “Spurned ad­vances pro­voke Texas shoot­ing,” read one ridicu­lous head­line. Sim­i­larly, Pagourtzis was de­scribed as a “sweet, nice boy.” Even try­ing to ex­plain away these atroc­i­ties is prob­lem­atic, as it pre­sumes that some­thing must have prompted these good guys to turn to the dark side. This “him­pa­thy,” as Kate Manne has called it, is nowhere more clear than in the six-month prison sen­tence of Stan­ford rapist Brock Turner – be­cause, of course, his rep­u­ta­tion mat­ters. Hers, not so much. She should sac­ri­fice. She should give in. She should pro­tect his pre­cious feel­ings.

Some sources out­side the main­stream me­dia, like Sa­lon, have done way bet­ter, not­ing that we live in a cul­ture in which women are to ac­cept and even ap­pre­ci­ate a man’s at­ten­tion, even if it is un­wanted.

De­spite the clear link­age be­tween hege­monic mas­culin­ity and lethal vi­o­lence, school of­fi­cials con­tinue to dis­re­gard this warn­ing sign. They look for “creepy” be­hav­ior, and fail to in­ter­pret in­ces­sant and ag­gres­sive pur­suit of an un­in­ter­ested girl as such. So, once again, I of­fer this ad­vice. Please, please, please, can we in­clude teach­ing about healthy and un­healthy re­la­tion­ships as a manda­tory part of our school cur­ric­ula? Can we please im­plore me­dia to re­search or at least talk to ex­perts on abuse and as­sault? And can we, as par­ents, vow to talk to our kids, es­pe­cially our boys, about how to han­dle re­jec­tion?

Laura Fin­ley Barry Univer­sity Mi­ami Shores, Fla. via

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